Tag Archives: solo

“And then, when it can’t get any more laughable: clarinet solo.”

Hmm. The NME’s review really enjoys pissing on Mr. Bellamy’s parade. The best bits on The Resistance usually occur when the band push their sound to polarising extremes. Hence why “I Belong To You (+ Mon Cœur S’Ouvre À Ta Voix)” is an absolute riot, in spite of its threat to break into Elton John doing cabaret at any given moment. Yes, Bellamy’s French accent resembles a daytripping tourist on acid. Yes, there is a celebratory “Woo!” at the beginning that belongs firmly on Broadway. But, as with so many of Muse’s best songs, it is the wavering on the right side of ridiculous that is the song’s making. Understandably therefore, the clarinet solo near the end is a work of genius – beautifully written; played with just the right tone and character; interlocking marvellously with the rest of the music.

So why, after all this star-struck amazement and wonder, does the band then have to ruin their credibility with utter rubbish like “Guiding Light” – a song so mediocre and in thrall to U2 at their very worst that it should be locked up in a secret cupboard in the headquarters of Magic FM.

Muse – I Belong To You (+Mon Coeur S’Ouvre A Ta Voix)

Guilty Pleasure #1 – Muse

Much as I hate to admit it, I’m suspiciously drawn to some songs on the recent Muse album, The Resistance. I get that it’s totally counter-intuitive to philosophise about pretentious music all day and then go home to a loud, outré, sloganeering chunk of symphonic rock, complete with time-signature changes, wholly self-indulgent guitar solos, and violently operatic vocals. But I really am beginning to love bits of it, at least.

Slap bang in the middle of the album lies the seven-minute long, multi-part leviathan that is “Unnatural Selection”. It opens with Bellamy phoning in a drawl over the kind of church organ that hasn’t been acceptable since Origin of Symmetry. From this innocuous opening emerges a slithering beast of a riff that recalls “New Born”. This somewhat pummelling passage eventually morphs into a rather baroque chorus that invokes memories of Bach, albeit interwoven with some background chanting resembling a football-terrace chant. Eventually, the song collapses into a gloriously decadent waltz, replete with woozy guitar licks and a Hammond organ that has somehow escaped out of a 50s horror film. When that passage is fully spent (and my, Bellamy has a lot of nonspecific wailing to get through), the baroque riff breaks through once more for a final showdown, this time with ten times more multi-tracked vocal harmonies and half a dozen more guitar overdubs.

And you know what? It’s marvellous.

Sometimes, Muse play up their theatricality until it just sounds ridiculous, but when they get it right, every disparate element of their schtick can fall into place perfectly, with a careless swagger than ploughs through any idea you may have had of decency. The lyrics may be meaningless nonsense, but when Bellamy is busy waking up the residents of Lake Como with his pair of bellows, it’s hard not to admit that he sounds like he’s having a good time. And, more to the p0int, that you’d be a bit of a killjoy not to have a good time yourself.

The money shot

Some songs are impressive throughout, while others ramp up the tension and build-up before unleashing a climactic killer moment. Sometimes, I yearn for a particular song just to hear that singular moment, when all the individual units of the track coalesce and lock in to reach an apex. Occasionally, I’ll even get this craving while listening to another song – in these instances, I am liable to forget what the desired song was by the time the previous one has finished, and I then spend several minutes scrolling through my library, in search of the elusive high.

About 3:20 into !!!’s Heart Of Hearts, the synced-up groove of whirring guitars, groaning keys and raw, ecstatic vocals lock into a repeated cry of “For a heart of, heart of, heart of, heart of hearts”, set to a snappy motorik beat and astonishingly pulsating bass. Suddenly, the whole contraption comes to a dramatic, pounding halt. A second later, all hell breaks loose, sonically, as the instruments bounce back in, but with ten times the soul and vigour. It’s a pretty spectacular event.

Elbow’s stunning Crawling With Idiot begins in a very low-key manner, with Guy Garvey’s breathy, sensual vocals set to a trickling piano chord sequence and a delicate guitar figure, alongside a subtle waltz time signature. Gradually, electronic burbles and coo-ing backing harmonies enter the fray, creating an oppressive, claustrophobic tone. Finally, at 2:45, a jarringly harsh guitar line drones in, gradually, bringing the song to a wonderfully chilling climax, as the sweetness of the vocals contrasts with triumphant organ and that unsettling guitar. And then the song ebbs away, gently, into bleak nothingness.

Far from being one of the characteristically long epics on the TNT album, Tortoise’s The Equator is an under-four-minute long diversion, travelling along languid guitar work and a fidgety, twitching beat. Halfway through, at about 2:00, a yearning, soaring guitar figure is cut across by a supernova of a whooshing sound, which leads into a gorgeous segment of the song, where the soothing synth wash in the background is complemented by finger-lickingly funky guitar strumming.

The Coral have a cunning habit of letting 60s-sounding psychedelic pop songs wander into spazzed-out freakouts, and Come Home is a prime example. A jazzy groove is strumming along fairly ordinarily; the vocalist is singing sweetly about magic and myths and sitting by the fire, when suddenly, a reverb-heavy guitar breakdown segues into a organ-led vamp. Gothic sounding vocals loom forebodingly; the jerky guitar piledrives in angrily; the drums get more chaotic; a searing lead synth whistles dissonantly. How very romantic.

4:00 into Blur’s epic album closer, Essex Dogs, after a passage of portentous reminiscence and messing around with a whammy pedal, emerges a torrent of freeform noise rock experimentation and some of Coxon’s finest guitar work. It’s a visceral, guttural thrill that can’t easily be topped.